AN ex-employee cost his former company an estimated £200,000 by hacking into its computer system, Worcester Crown Court heard.

Neil Jinks corrupted and deleted files from the internal network of Karndean International based in Evesham.

His "attacks" severely disrupted the running of the flooring firm, stopped orders being delivered and led to compensation claims by customers, said Jennifer Josephs, prosecuting last Friday.

Married father-of-one Jinks accessed the company using the passwords of top personnel, including the operations director and the chief executive.

He used a broadband connection and was traced to a computer company where he had gone to work.

Jinks, aged 30, of Rogers Lane, Ettington, Stratford-upon-Avon, pleaded guilty to three offences under the Misuse of Computers acts.

Jailing him for nine months, Deputy Judge Peter Stretton said: "You used your skill and knowledge to cause disruption to your previous employers. There was no reason for this. You chose to interfere with mischievous and malicious intent and caused considerable loss."

Jinks left his job as IT manager with Karndean - located in Crab Apple Way on the Vale Park industrial estate - in April last year. Three months later, his successor Ashley Green found key data, crucial to the running of the company, had been wiped, said Miss Josephs.

On July 6, business had to be suspended from 8.30am to 3pm when the lost files were restored from back-up systems. But a day later more files were deleted and on July 10 Jinks accessed the network with the boss's user name.

Miss Josephs said the choice of files was not random and was obviously made by someone with inside knowledge.

Jinks was arrested in September and admitted hacking on three days. He claimed he bore no grudge but did it "on impulse to see if I could".

Miss Josephs said the estimated loss was £200,000 which included overtime to catch up on lost work.

Jinks, a man of previous good character, was not made redundant, leaving Karndean for another job nearer to home after marrying, said Robert Frank, defending.

"He didn't do this out of spite, which makes the case extraordinary," he said. "There was no attempt to disguise his access like experienced hackers do."

Jinks could not explain his actions, he went on, but was £23,000 in debt which must have prompted him to start behaving out of character. His wife was pregnant with their second child and he was losing his new job next month. He was scared of going to jail and would not be tempted by crime again.